AAA Iowa Cubs:
The main story around Iowa is and will continue to be the development of Cubs’ top prospect, Javier Baez. However, it has not been the start to the 2014 season that Baez and the Cubs were hoping for. In 22 games, Baez has hit just .169 with an alarming 33 strikeouts. Despite the pretty horrific numbers, there is still no reason to panic here. Baez has had a history of slow starts when he begins at a new level and should snap out of this slump pretty soon. On Wednesday, Baez went 3-5 in Iowa’s 3-0 victory over New Orleans in which Chris Rusin tossed a no-hitter.
Away from Baez, there has been more positives coming out of Iowa.The Cubs 6th ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, Asrimendy Alcantara has shown a lot of promise. Although his average at .271 doesn’t really grab your attention, Alcantara has a very good mix of power and speed. In 30 games, the 22 year old second baseman has nine doubles, four triples, and two home runs.
Other notes: 3B propsect Christian Villanueva is starting to warm up after a slow start and OF Josh Vitters has homered four times in the past three games. Vitters should get another chance on the North Side some time this summer.
AA Tennessee Smokies:
A lot of positives coming out of Tennessee so far this season. First of all, Cubs 2013 first round pick Kris Bryant has mashed Double-A pitching so far. Bryant is hitting .297 with a .414OBP and six home runs. Assuming he keeps up this pace, Bryant will promoted to Iowa sometime in June or early July. However, there is no chance that the Cubs bring up Bryant this year.
The Smokies have received two big additions to their roster the past few days. The first is Jorge Soler who is returning from a hamstring injury. Soler took one at-bat with Tennessee before getting hurt and hit a double. He went back to Arizona to rehab and play in extended spring training games. Soler is in the Smokies lineup on Thursday night.
The next is Arodys Vizcaino. The flamethrower started in High-A Daytona to work on his command. In nine appearances, Vizcaino posted an ERA of just 1.00 and will be on the fast track through the minor leagues. There is a good chance that the Cubs call up Vizcaino at some point this season.
One piece of unfortunate news from Tennessee is the health of top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards. After experiencing shoulder fatigue in a bullpen session, Edwards was sent to Chicago to get an MRI. Test revealed no structural damage, just inflammation. Edwards is currently resting his shoulder and should begin throwing in the next few weeks.
Other Notes: 2012 first round pick Pierce Johnson has made three starts with Tennessee after starting the year on the DL. He has struggled with his command early on but batters have hit just .222 against Johnson.
High-A Daytona Cubs
Daytona is currently home the Cubs third ranked prospect Albert Almora, as well has Jeimer Candelario and Dan Vogelbach. Unfortunately, all three of them are struggling. After a season and a half in the Cubs organization, Almora has hit at every level but has been in a slump lately in Daytona. His average has dipped down to .250 but I don’t see it staying there for long. The 20 year old center fielder has a very high contact percentage. He rarely walks but rarely strikes out. Once he starts finding the holes, Almora’s average with be back to his usual .300.
Vogelbach and Candelario have also been off to a slow start. However, unlike Almora, these two hitters have very high walk percentages. Both have advanced approaches at the plate, which is a great attribute for players that young. Despite hitting for low averages right now, the two have OBPs over .300.
Other Notes: 2013 second round pick Rob Zastryzny has been off to a bad start with an ERA over eight. He will try to turn things around in his start against Brevard County on Thursday night.
Full-A Kane County Cougars
Kane County has been off to their best start in the organization’s history. Although they don’t have any huge name prospects playing for them right now, there are a lot of potential plus prospects developing in Kane County. First player to note is pitcher Jen-Ho-Tseng, an international signing for the Cubs in 2013. In five starts, Tseng has posted an impressive 2.73 ERAwith 27 strikeouts. He has the chance to rise up the prospect charts but needs to put together a full season.
Cougars catcher Will Remillard was recently named the Cubs minor league hitter of the month for posting a .394 average with eight doubles. The Cubs drafted Remillard in the 19th round of the 2013 draft out of Coastal Carolina. He is probably to advanced for playing in Full-A but the average and OBP is still something to be impressed about. The Cubs have no depth at catcher in organization so anyone catchers that shows some ability to hit might move through the organization rather quickly.
Other Notes: Pitchers Duane Underwood and Paul Blackburn have had good starts to the season. Both have mid rotation potential and will benefit from playing a full season this year.